The road to leadership is never plain sailing. We hosted a webinar with guest speaker Barbara Galloon, the Senior Finance Director of the Pacific Region for Avis Budget Group, who spoke authentically about the valuable, and often challenging, lessons she has learnt throughout her colourful finance career. She also shared what a CFO should be focusing on in 2023 and in the future.
Poll # 1
During the event, we asked participants the following question:
The resounding response was that a modern CFO should be emotionally intelligent while being commercially minded, capable of guiding a business from end to end.
During the discussion, Barbara shared three defining experiences in her life, which have shaped the trajectory of her career.
“Believe in yourself and back yourself in the face of obstacles.”
Barbara grew up in South Africa as the youngest of three girls. Barbara was told by her teachers at the age of nine, that she would never be as academically minded as her older sisters. Later, she was diagnosed with a learning disability. Her brain went too fast for her hands and mouth, which often meant some words were missing from her writing and when she spoke. She got the support she needed and was given tools to help her address her disability, which she still uses today. She went on to graduate as a charted accountant.
“Sometimes you must take a step backwards or sideways to move upwards. Be open to opportunities, especially if they allow you to learn a new skill set.”
Before Barbara emigrated to Australia from South Africa, she was a CFO of a mobile phone company. However, upon arriving here, she was told she didn’t have enough grey hair or enough local experience to fulfil the role of CFO. She didn’t want to take on a more junior role after working so hard to develop her career. Despite her frustration, she did take on two more junior finance roles, the first at Virgin Mobile Australia in Marketing and then a second in Optus Corporate Sales. In these roles, she learnt extensively about the commercial side of finance, an area she hadn’t been exposed to in South Africa.
Later in her career, after recognising and vocalising internal obstacles to management, she was offered an opportunity to lead a large-scale business transformation in Optus Consumer Sales. Leading the transformation has turned out to be a key highlight of her career to date.
“To be an engaged leader, you need to bring your whole self to work and share yourself with your team. Be vulnerable and compassionate. Showing your vulnerability is your strength, not your weakness.”
Barbara returned to Virgin mobile as CFO and was asked by her peer why she didn’t share her wicked sense of humour with her team. She learnt that her team feared her and felt they couldn’t really connect with her, which shocked her. It wasn’t how she perceived herself. She learnt it wasn’t enough to work long hours — she had to be vulnerable and compassionate. Her peer made her realise to be an inspirational leader, she had to bring her whole self to work.
Poll # 2
The second question revealed these results:
Most participants agreed that driving business growth with the right strategies was the biggest challenge for CFOs today. Talent acquisition and retention followed, which is an ongoing obstacle for most organisations.
Barbara’s advice to CFOs
The uncertainty of current times is set to continue. High inflation, rising interest rates and political uncertainty have blown out costs and we are seeing a real squeeze on margins. Businesses, boards, and shareholders are turning to CFOs for direction. Uncertainty, however, also creates opportunities to become a more agile, stronger business.
Barbara shared her ideas of what a CFO should be focusing on in 2023 and in the future:
- Daily analytics, modelling, and scenario planning: This helps businesses make informed decisions, identify risks and opportunities, maintain a competitive edge, and correctively pivot if necessary.
- Invest in digitisation, automation, and AI: Uncertain times are not the time to stop investing. Invest in processes that make strategic sense to your business. For example, consider ways to improve decision making, streamline processes, and elevate the customer experience.
- Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG): ESG is not just a buzz word; it’s non-negotiable. Without an ESG strategy, you risk losing customers, suppliers, and staff. Make sure you have one in place.
- High performing, inspired finance team: It’s important that every finance team has the right mix of capability and skill set. Upskill your team and where it can’t be taught, you might need to grow your team.
Moir Group is launching a new initiative, an intensive and interactive program called Pathway to CFO. It is designed specifically for emerging finance leaders looking to take that next step to CFO. If you would like to learn more, contact Vicky Lazarus on 0477 977 988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We run many events across the year for early and mid-career professionals. Sign up for our upcoming events here.